The Clippers have tried to plot a course that could push them toward a better position in Thursday’s NBA draft.
They have offered their own lottery picks, the 12th and 13th selections, to make a deal to move up, according to NBA executives not authorized to speak publicly on the matter and media reports. So far they have been rebuffed in their attempts to procure a deal for a top-five pick with the Sacramento Kings (who pick second), Atlanta Hawks (third), Memphis Grizzlies (fourth) and Dallas Mavericks (fifth).
The Clippers will continue to do their due diligence and talk with teams ahead of them in the draft with the hopes of getting a high enough pick to select European star Luka Doncic, according to the executives.
But if the Clippers stand pat, they still believe they will get talent with their first-round picks.
“It is important to kind of get a feel for what the other teams [think] and the players they like in case they like the same player you do,” Lawrence Frank, the Clippers’ president of basketball operations, said recently. “You know where you need to get to get him.
“But once the draft is slotted, you can’t control if a team is not going to make a trade with you. So if they decide to make a trade with someone else and a team trades above you and gets the player you like, you got to be prepared for it. And that’s why you rank your players, you trust your [draft] board, you tier them in terms of where guys are at.”
There are many players the Clippers have targeted that they believe can provide them with depth and a bright future.
The Clippers are intrigued by a pair of Kentucky stars: 6-foot-6 point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and 6-9 combo forward Kevin Knox.
Michigan State forward Miles Bridges (6-6, 230 pounds) has been on the Clippers’ radar because of his ability to play multiple positions, while Alabama point guard Collin Sexton (6-2) would fulfill a playmaking need for the Clippers.
Texas A&M big man Robert Williams (6-9) has potential the Clippers like, and Miami shooting guard Lonnie Walker IV (6-5) is a scorer the Clippers could use.
“What you try to do is you try to minimize any emotional decision that you are going to make on Thursday,” Frank said. “So it’s all the prep work to figure it out. You can’t do every situation, but you try to prepare for literally everything you can.
“You go through the entire NBA rosters, you go through everyone in the draft and you’re gaming for all the different possibilities that can happen and then you’re prioritizing all those things.”
Drafting later among the lottery teams does not mean all is lost and that all the top talent has been taken.
Last year’s draft is a prime example: Guard Donovan Mitchell was picked at No. 13 by the Denver Nuggets before he was traded to the Utah Jazz. He turned into a star and helped the Jazz to the second round of the playoffs.
The Phoenix Suns took Devin Booker with the 13th pick in the 2015 draft and he has become one of the up-and-coming shooting guards in the NBA.
Two of the game’s biggest stars were taken outside the lottery picks: Giannis Antetokounmpo, taken 15th by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2013, and Kawhi Leonard, taken 15th in 2011 by the Indiana Pacers before he was traded to the San Antonio Spurs.
That gives the Clippers and their fans high hopes that their picks will become forces in the league.